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Omameh: 300 pounds of sunshine

By Zach Helfand, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 15, 2012

Omameh recalls the same faces he saw booing the team at halftime were reaching down over the tunnel for high fives.

***

Believe this, there is a different Omameh. Meaner.

He gave a part of himself to his family, and a part to school and a part to God. He gave himself to the younger members of DeSales’ football team and to his studies. But football is not for nice people, says Funk, the offensive line coach. “It’s a violent game. It’s a tough sport for tough people.”

What Omameh gives on the field is only pain and darkness. Two years ago, Omameh drove one Notre Dame defender 15 yards off the ball and then buried him into the ground.

“I enjoy collisions,” Omameh says. “You want it. The collisions and the impact and just hitting is something that you learn to enjoy.”

Wiggins, his high school coach, said he still shows that clip to his lineman. “He’s pretty devastating,” he said.

In a way, there is a different Omameh on the field, but in another way, it makes sense. The bookish student is meticulous with his technique. He is big-hearted with an explosiveness that could take him to the NFL. His mind can understand the defenses; can pick up a new coaching staff’s new offense quickly. The kid who doesn’t like to let people down plays on the offensive line. It fits.

Omameh’s confidence had always made everything look easy, but it hadn’t always been so. “Even though Patrick may hate me for saying so,” says Laura, Omameh’s confidence wasn’t always there. As a child, he was a bit chubby. He wore glasses and braces. He calls it his “Dark Period.”

During the Dark Period, Omameh played sports like soccer and basketball. It wasn’t until Omameh made a deal with his friend, Jacob, that he tried football. Jacob, a good basketball player, would join Omameh’s hoops team if Omameh would play for Jacob’s football team. That was sixth grade. By the end of eighth grade, Omameh had grown considerably, and so had his confidence. But Omameh hadn’t always been the biggest and best player on the team.

Then, he grew, and his personality did too. That figure that waltzed into DeSales after that one summer was different. He was confident and eager to please. He held court with his humor, and knocked anyone out on the field, with ease.

***

Patrick Sr. believed his life would be better in the United States, so in 1980, he left Nigeria to live with relatives in Columbus. He left behind his home, a city where the people believe in themselves but also look down on everyone else, according to Phyllis. The name of the city is Onitsha and some there believe it literally means “arrogance.”

But trusting his instincts, Patrick Sr. went back to Onitsha to visit family and friends, friends who led him to the very spot he stood now, led him to this woman named Phyllis.

Again, his instincts told him, “Look, Patrick, this is the one you’re looking for.” And again, he trusted. Patrick Sr. was calm and poised and the woman, Phyllis, driven. So driven was she that, “when I set my eyes on him, I didn’t let go.” And the two left together, back to Columbus to raise a family, leaving Onitsha, the pride and the arrogance behind.

Their middle child would never live in this land, but he would come from here. He would be calm and driven, with the confidence of Onitsha and a heart that would make you believe.


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